11 October 2016
Wear an Iconic Timepiece
Auction Houses Offer Rare and Vintage Pieces
Wristwatch ownership offers many advantages and pleasures beyond accurately measuring time. Just like people find value in owning and wearing fine jewelry, the same can be said about wristwatches. For the practical buyer, the value of watches is often entirely emotional, meaning every penny spent buys you greater emotional satisfaction. Typically, any timepiece over $200 is more jewelry than watch and therefore one ought to forget about evaluating the item by adding up the cost of its components, calculating the value of precious metals or the mechanism inside. Savor the feeling you get when you slip a luxury watch around your wrist.
Like other collectibles (wines, art, automobiles, etc.) watches have a niche demand for the very rare and their value is centered on only the high-end of auctions. Often a single watch collector can influence the tastes, trends, and value of the entire market. Celebrity ownership of a watch can also greatly increase its value. Over the years, pop culture has also played a role. James Bond propelled the Rolex brand when it debuted on Sean Connery’s wrist in Dr. No. Predicting where the watch market will go next is incredibly challenging.
For those interested in either selling or buying a rare or vintage timepiece, you ought to approach one of the major auction houses that possess the expertise and resources necessary to properly deal in watches and clocks. There are a number of reasons to work with an auction house that specializes in wristwatches. Safety and convenience are among the top ones. The process of selling a watch begins with an appraisal and a contract to sell. From there, the auction house does the rest.
The top five best auction houses include:
- Christie’s: Has a dedicated watch department and incredibly valuable watches available, with impressive final prices.
- Antiquorum: Entirely focused on watches and clocks and hold the eyes of the world’s top watch collectors.
- Sotheby’s: Well-known name in auctions of all types along with a dedicated watch department.
- Bonhams: Famed auction house known for its charismatic auctioneers.
- Fellows: Based in the UK, this auction house focuses on lots with final prices under £10,000.
Timepieces, typically, are an emotional investment and value can fluctuate on a whim. That said wristwatches make excellent collectibles and should therefore be considered a luxury expense more than an investment vehicle. Often the story behind who owned the wristwatch is of far more value than the timepiece itself. The watch has become a fashion accessory, a statement piece for your wrist that often speaks volumes about who you are. But at the top of the price spectrum sits some of the most extravagant, collectible, and decadent timepieces. What makes these watches, some valued in the tens of thousands, so expensive? Here’s the list of this year’s most expensive watches.
Louis Moinet Meteoris Watch- Price: $4,600,000
The watches in this collection contain fragments from space including the extremely rare Dhofar 459 meteorite, a piece of the moon that fell to earth, the Itqiy meteorite which formed close to the sun thousands of years ago as well as fragments of meteorites from Mars and Mercury.
HUBLOT Big Bang Watch- Price: $5,000,000
The uniqueness of this watch is its focus on only one component: diamonds, and lots of them. The watch contains 1,280 diamonds that total 140 carats.
Patek Philippe – Henry Graves Pocket Watch- Price: $11,000,000
This timepiece was made in 1933 for banker Henry Graves and took over 5 years to complete. The pocket watch has over 24 functions and is one of the most complicated and complex in the world.
Chopard 201-Carat Watch- Price: $25,000,000
This rare timepiece has 874 diamonds and used to be the world’s most expensive watch. Some of the jewels that make up the piece are three flawless, heart-shaped diamonds that total nearly 40 carats.
Breguet Grande Complication Marie-Antoinette- Price: $30,000,000
The most expensive watch in the world was commissioned by an alleged lover of the French queen, Marie Antoinette. The timepiece is encased in gold, displaying the intricate mechanism running it and is currently displayed at the L.A. Mayer museum in Israel.
Through years of study, high-end luxury watch buyers know precisely what they are getting into with each new acquisition and understand those watches that are worth their high cost and those that, while still expensive, are an emotional purchase with less than impressive post-purchase value. While most timepieces don’t typically produce a strong ROI, there are a few things you can do to have the best chance of making a profit in 10 or 20 years. First, go vintage. The line between vintage and pre-owned is still a bit blurry; however, after 20 or 30 years watches appreciate steadily in value due to their limited supply. Another benefit of vintage watches: you know its complete history, whether it aged well, its competition and the demand. This information helps you to make an informed decision. Engaging with an auction house that specializes in timepieces is both safe and convenient for those looking to buy and sell.
A word of advice from collectors and aficionados, buy a wristwatch that brings personal satisfaction and enjoyment and forget about the possibility of getting a return on your investment. It’s not a gold bar that sits in a safe. In many cases, it’s a piece of fine jewelry you wear and feel good about.